Chrysler: Yes, We'll Build A Few Electric And Hybrid Cars (We Have To)

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2012 Fiat 500 Electric/Elettra

2012 Fiat 500 Electric/Elettra

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Give Chrysler credit for consistency.

A company executive said yesterday that it would indeed build electric and hybrid vehicles, though "sparingly" and for the "right kinds of targeted applications."

The comment came from Bob Lee, Chrysler's vice president and head of engineering for engine and electrified propulsion, during a conference presentation at the Center for Automotive Research "Management Briefing Seminars" held outside Traverse City, Michigan.

Cheerfully plain-spoken Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said all along that its 2013 Fiat 500 Electric will lose money and is not a car Chrysler wants to build.

It's only being built in low volumes as a "compliance car" to meet requirements for sales of a certain number of zero-emission vehicles in the state of California.

And while the company plans to launch both a Chrysler 300 Hybrid sedan and a hybrid minivan, it is likely to focus more development effort on its upcoming diesel engine program.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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It will launch a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel next January that's expected to be one of two high-volume diesel passenger cars in the U.S. market, along with the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel.

And that may not be Chrysler's only diesel offering; the company trademarked the "EcoDiesel" brand earlier this year.

It also has proposed that natural gas may be a possibility for use as an alternative fuel, though for now its only natural-gas offering is a bi-fuel version of its Ram 2500 Heavy-Duty pickup truck.

Any natural-gas passenger cars from Chrysler likely wouldn't arrive before 2017.

Lee's comments on electrification, reported by Bloomberg, indicate that Fiat-Chrysler is content to let other companies--Toyota and Honda in hybrids, Nissan in electric cars--take the lead and develop the market for such alternate technologies.

2013 Ram 2500 HD CNG pickup truck - natural-gas fuel system only

2013 Ram 2500 HD CNG pickup truck - natural-gas fuel system only

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Arguably, Chrysler feels it has more pressing and immediate needs.

Before it can incur the considerable expense of developing such technologies for mass production, which may take a decade or more, it has to make a success out of its 2013 Dodge Dart compact sedan, just now launching.

In other words, making sure the company can design, engineer, and sell competitive cars with regular engines and transmissions takes priority.

Hybrids and plug-ins? They'll be built "sparingly" (in low volumes) and "targeted" (meaning that you're not likely to see them in most Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram-Fiat dealerships any time soon).

Unless, perhaps, you live in California.

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